Upon reading the mission statement of ‘global street food’ and browsing over the menu, you’ll be ready for an exotic experience when journeying downtown to Buku. If you’re a Facebook fan like myself – you’ve also seen the daily photo postings of attractive plates and specials, successfully amplifying the anticipation to get inside. However, some may experience anxiety about the foreign or unknown, but Buku’s presentation of international favorites has a real modern, westernized feel from the posh interiors (a la waterfall walls) to the conventional proteins of chicken/beef/pork/fish. The Buku staff conveys poise in their workplace, and they should with its reputation of respectable food and atmosphere. I loved that our waitress was so self-assured in the menu – she was sincerely confident we were leaving happy, regardless of our choices –evident pride.
We started our adventure with signature cocktails, which were beyond global, actually out of this world good. The Buku Dark & Stormy (Cruzan vanilla, brandied cherry, lime, housemade ginger beer) is one of the best spiced cocktails I’ve ever had. Side story: the bartender is still brandying cherries and muddling stuff to ensure good quality just after having a baby… street credit. The habanera margarita was also a distinctive concoction, with its subtle (yet very present) heat & sweet balance. I feel props is due to Foundation Bar for upping the RDU cocktail game & Buku is a solid contender.
Food: Tip:Share: We started with Pierogis (chicken, butternut squash, brown butter) I was/am a little confused with this dish, mostly because of my own unawareness of what a pierogi is. It is featured under the dumpling menu, so naturally I assumed it was of Asian flavors. I was way off – the chicken had hints of Spanish/chipotle flavor? Today, I looked up the pierogi’s origin, which is European/Polish cuisine. I’m still left a bit perplexed about the flavors. The Buku Roll (crab, avocado, cucumber, roe, topped with spicy tuna tartar) was incredible. I know I’ve had good sushi when I think about at lunch the next day. I recommend Buku develop an appetizer featuring that excellent tuna tartar – yum. Lastly, we tried the Korean BBQ – again, a very new dish to me. I was anticipating beef with grill-marks?, and investigated today to find Korean BBQ’s presentation varies. Buku’s version was a heap of steamed, shaved sirloin. I’ll pass on kim chi (vinegary cabbage situation) and the sesame spinach was bland. Overall, this was not a hit plate for me.
All in all, Buku is foreign cuisine with training wheels for the Americana-frequenter. I found myself researching the cuisine post-dinner – which is concrete evidence of the chefs’ literal feeding of the patrons’ curiosities about foreign foods and ensuring their return for more exploration. It’s also a crowd-pleasing restaurant with a wide diversity of menu options. I actually encourage one to visit in a large group so you can better sample the entire menu (we were beyond stuffed with only three small plates).
Also, a noteworthy event is their Sunday Brunch Buffet.